Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Abraham and Moses

In Reformed theology there is sometimes is a tendency to play off Abraham and Moses driven by a particular covenantal scheme. But if God has one plan, then there must continuity between the two covenants. One of the best books on covenant theology that I've read in recent years is Michael Williams, Far As the Curse is Found: The Covenant Story of Redemption (Phillipsburgh, NJ: P&R, 2005), who says this: "God's Sinai covenant with Israel (Ex. 19) harks back to his promises to Abraham (Gen. 12). Yahweh is reminding Israel that he is not a deity restricted to a particular territory or tribe. Rather, 'the whole earth is mine.' God's selection of one people out of all the earth, while maintaining his sovereign rights over all nations, leads to the conclusion that the election of the one is for the blessing of all. Israel's calling is a means toward the end of universal blessings" (p. 138). And in a footnote there is mention of Bill Dumbrell's suggestion that Exod. 19.4-5 is a virtual restatement of Gen. 12.1-3 and that the Mosaic covenant is a restatement and expansion of the Abrahamic promises of Genesis 12.

5 comments:

ggibson said...

How do you reconcile the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants when the two covenants fall under different types (Royal Grant vs. Suzerainty Treaty)?

I agree that there must be continuity, but does continuity require a collapsing?

Also, if the Mosaic covenant absolves or engulfs the Abrahamic covenant, then certain passages become very difficult to navigate (Ezekiel 16 comes to mind).

Sean LeRoy said...

GG - I hear your point, but I don't think he used the word engulf - not to be a nit pick, but...
I do see them as separate, but complementary - I think the Cov at Sinai did reaffirm the Promise Cov and then came along side it to play a particular role in contributing to its ultimate fulfillment.
Also, couple of things that Williams says that are key in discussing law/gospel and Cov - 1) Sinai Cov was with Israel (not the church, not Gentiles); 2) Israel's calling is a means toward the ends, or one of them, of the Abrahamic Cov. Therefore, in my thinking we all should work on an Israelology, if you will. They were, are and will yet be key to what God's doing and will do.

John Davies said...

I don't think we can sustain a sharp contrast between royal grant and suzerainty treaties. These are only analogies at best in any case. I have argued that the royal grant has a lot going for it as an analogy for the Sinai covenant (A Royal Priesthood - JSOTSup). The tenor of the Sinai covenant is that it is a wonderfully gracious divine bestowal of his blessing on his people. They are granted the status of royalty/priesthood as well as the possession of the sanctuary-land. Yes Sinai has stipulations (as did the Abrahamic, which we are inclined to forget). But royal grants had built-in expectations of the grantee. When the conditions of the enjoyment of blessing under the Sinai covenant are breached, somehow God persists in his promises that the covenant will be fulfilled (Deut 30). Sounds pretty Abrahamic to me.

Matt said...

I just bought this today. It looks quite good.
thanks to Mr Bird for the recommendation.

John Thomson said...

Are not chapters 3 and 4 of Galatians the Holy Spirit's commentary on the relationship between the two covenants? Do not these chapters reveal the proper continuity and disjunction?